Abandoning new standards would hurt Ky. schools

March 13, 2014 

The Republican lawmakers who are trying to force Kentucky's public schools to abandon the Common Core Standards could use a refresher course in recent history.

The standards were ushered in by one of the Republican Senate's proudest accomplishments, Senate Bill 1 in 2009.

Two of the Republicans who are trying to torpedo the standards in this session — Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine, R-Southgate, and Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown — were sponsors of the 2009 bill that paved the way for Kentucky to become the first to adopt the Common Core.

In her last campaign, Stine touted her co-sponsorship of SB 1 in 2009 as evidence of what she called her "Proven History of Leadership and Service."

So what happened?

President Barack Obama embraced the standards after they were initiated through a bipartisan effort of the National Governors Association and state education commissioners. Education Secretary Arne Duncan used federal education grants to incentivize — some would say pressure — states to adopt the standards.

Once the Democratic president was for the standards, some Republicans just reflexively turned against them.

In 2009, one of the main things Stine and other Senate Republicans wanted from SB 1 was a way to directly compare student achievement in Kentucky with that of other states — a sensible goal if we want Kentucky graduates to be competitive and schools to be accountable.

Such comparisons are impossible, though, when every state has different standards and when what's considered academically proficient in one state would be graded deficient in another.

Putting some standardization into the standards was one of the goals behind development of the Common Core, which has been praised and maligned by various interests up and down the political spectrum.

No one will ever come up with learning standards that please everyone. Robust debate on what schools should be teaching is a good thing.

But upending the curriculum, just three years after starting a new statewide testing and accountability system, would be lunacy. That, however, is just what Senate Bill 224 would do, imposing needless disruption on Kentucky's teachers, students and parents who have worked hard to bring on line the system the legislature mandated.

The cost of a replacement system would be $35 million, according to Education Commissioner Terry Holliday — money the state does not have and, which even if it did, would be a huge waste especially when Kentucky schools have gone for years without money to even replace textbooks.

If the new system fails to protect the privacy of student data, as some say, the state should fix that.

But SB 224 would just undermine Kentucky's public schools.

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